An empty bedroom now sits at the end of the hall where Eric de Schepper’s wife spent her final days.
“Being in this room here is, is actually quite comfortable. It feels like there is still some essence of Katherine here,” de Schepper said Monday.
Katherine Ellis died of pancreatic cancer Feb. 18, without having gotten the home care she was promised more than five weeks earlier.
The workers finally arrived days after she’d passed.
De Schepper isn’t alone in his heartbreak. Since going public, others have shared their experiences with him, he told Global News.
“After listening to quite a lot of those stories, I ended up standing right here in the living room, and I just started crying. My heart just started falling apart, realizing how much hardship these people are going through.”
De Schepper now feels compelled to address MLAs directly on their behalf.
The Manitoba minister responsible for seniors and long-term care, Scott Johnston, wasn’t available for an interview Monday. Instead, a spokesperson offered condolences in a statement.
They said the province’s seniors strategy announced Wednesday earmarked an additional $14 million to expand the Self and Family-Managed Care program and $1.3 million more for palliative care services.
Since de Schepper initially decried his wife’s treatment, there hasn’t been movement on improving conditions and wages for home care workers, the union representing them told Global News Monday.
Their collective agreement was ratified Sept. 23, although changes to overtime pay and shift premiums won’t be implemented until March 31, CUPE 204 president, Debbie Boissonneault, said.
“My understanding is they probably won’t see any back pay until the end of April,” she said.
“We’re still in discussions about getting them sick time…. They do not have a proper pension. The benefits aren’t the same as they are for the facilities.”
Workers continue to leave the sector for other jobs like Amazon, due to poor benefits and salaries along with the high cost of fuel, Boissonneault said.
“They’re leaving the health-care system altogether, and they’re going to a place where they feel they get better pay and they don’t have the stress of showing up to someone’s home, and, you know, hearing from the client that no one’s been here for a couple of days.”
Boissonneault isn’t optimistic Manitoba’s seniors strategy will bring about the changes that are needed, especially as the population ages and many opt for home care.
Last week, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) sent de Schepper a condolence letter that he says isn’t helping with his grief. It wasn’t addressed to him and was signed with a printed signature, he said.
Earlier in the week, de Schepper filed a complaint of wrongdoing against the WRHA with the Manitoba Ombudsman, with whom he’ll meet on Tuesday, he said.
Meanwhile, de Schepper doesn’t know when he’ll have his day at the Legislature, but he said he hopes it will bring dramatic improvements to home care.
“I know that if Katherine would be right now here, she would be telling me to keep going,” de Schepper said.
“She would be telling me, you’re doing the right thing.”